The Tooth Decay Problem: Facts to Chew On

The Tooth Decay Problem: Facts to Chew On
Oral health is integral to general health. You cannot be healthy without oral health.

- Oral Health in America: A Report of the Surgeon General (2000)

Tooth decay is largely preventable, but it remains one of the most common diseases of childhood – five times as common as asthma, and seven times as common as hay fever, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Additionally, oral disease in children can lead to missed school days (more than 51 million school hours per year are lost due to dental-related illness), and lead to problems with eating, speaking, and attentiveness in class.

 More numbers behind the pervasiveness of tooth decay in America, according to the CDC:

  • Total US dental expenditures for children aged 0-21 years in 2012 exceeded $25 billion!
  • 42% of children ages 2 to 11 have had cavities in baby teeth; 21% of children aged 6 to 11 have had cavities in permanent teeth.
  • There were 830,000 emergency room visits due to preventable dental conditions.
  • 1 in 5 people have untreated tooth decay.

Not to mention, tooth decay leads to fillings, which wear out and need to be replaced. As decay progresses, many people need expensive treatments such as crowns, root canals (ouch), bridges, or even implants.

What are some individual risk factors for tooth decay?

  • Diet
  • Genetics
  • Dental hygiene habits
  • Frequency of dentist visits

What does this all mean? Being proactive about your oral health should come just as easily and be just as important to you as exercising and eating healthy. According to the Mayo Clinic, oral health might contribute to various diseases and conditions, including endocarditis and cardiovascular disease. Why? When bacteria or other germs spread from another part of your body (i.e, your mouth) through the bloodstream, they may cause inflammation or attach to damaged areas of the heart.

All of these facts put together might seem overwhelming, but luckily they don’t change how simple it is to be diligent about your own oral health. Brushing, flossing, regular dental check-ups (and the occasional anti cavity lollipop or lozenge) are all it takes to take care of your oral health and ultimately, your overall health.